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I am the "IBM Collaboration & Productivity Advisor" for IBM Asia Pacific. I'm based in Singapore.
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01/05/2017

The Decline and Fall of IBM

Category

I wrote this quite a while ago, never finished the article until now. Enjoy.

Yeah right!

With this words Robert X Cringley a.k.a Mark Stephens celebrates himself when he asserts something clever. His book The Decline and Fall of IBM created quite some stir and was a hot topic of discussion especially among IBMers and alumni.
So I got myself a copy and had a look. Clearly he has an axe to grind with IBM and everybody is invited. Many came. Half of the book consists of mostly grieving comments ranging from 2007 until 2014. With all this contributions, the content remains light on substance. After all it costs you less than a late.

Some of the stated observations are spot on, like "IBM is a sales organisation", others while looking like observations, but rather are opinions (e.g. "IBM lost its way") and statements that made me feel: "why didn't the IBM board ask him to run IBM? He seems to know so much better!", exactly like an arbitrary spectator of the world cup in a pub can tell you what a team did wrong.

I'm not saying, that all is well in IBM, that would be a fools view. An organisation with a size and workforce exceeding several countries does live in challenging times. An economic system, that values growth over everything is problematic (In biology an organism that grows indefinitely is called cancer) at least and transiting to a global workforce on this scale is unparalleled. I share his view that the dance around the golden calf known as shareholder value might be praying to a false good.
Here are some comments to Cringley's statements, that crossed my mind (paraphrasing):

  • Cringley: "In IBM management is royalty, the sales force the nobility and technical people are the peasants. No peasant can dream to become royalty".
    Yeah right! IBM fellows, IBM Distinguished Engineers or members of the IBM Academy of Technology will disagree. The irony here: in the "good old IBM (of Watson)" there was no career path for technical experts. In the IBM of today there is
  • I worked a lot with our engineers in India and China. They are hard working, ready to learn and, by now, quite experienced. Asserting that they are less capable that their American counterparts, seems quite arrogant to me. Yes, they were unexperienced a decade ago, but that's a long time in IT years. Also: there are capable and incapable engineers everywhere. Pinning it on a specific country or region is (insert your own statement of backwards here). A real issue however are IBM's processes, that had been designed to cater to get less experienced people on board. They need an overhaul.
  • Cringley: "IBM should not sell the Intel servers to Lenovo".
    Yeah right! Cringley portrays it as the complete exit out of a server growth market. However IBM still has Intel based technology in their PureSystems and acquired skills and know how through the Softlayer acquisition how to build the special segment of Intel based machines that run in cloud size data centres. So instead of exiting a segment, it looks to me like eliminating duplicate product lines
  • Cringley: "IBM should port AIX to Intel".
    Yeah right! AIX runs on one class of IBM machines (System P), while Linux runs on everything from SoftlayerBluemix to Mainframe. Linux outperforms AIX on System P in quite some workloads. So what makes a better investment? Port AIX or infuse the security know how of AIX into Linux? (the file system options are there already)
  • Cringley: "IBM should ditch the Power architecture and switch to Intel"
    Yeah right! IBM has vast know how in building processors that will get lost when stopping to develop them. Asset utilisation isn't ditching assets, but making them more competitive. Intel and ARM aren't the only shops who can design processors, just have a look at OpenPOWER
  • Cringley: Hadoop will make mainframes obsolete.
    Yeah right! The technology is around for a decade, Google, its inventor, already moved on. Asserting a single technology will kill the I/O beasts known as Big Iron, looks like an inflight magazine statement. Besides the fact, that IBM offers a robust Hadoop implementation for a while already, which you can run on zLinux, if you choose so.
  • The book contains quite some areas, like current staff morale, the process culture or the layers of management that highlight pain. However where he is wrong: IBM isn't blind to the issues and there are forces inside working for the betterment (even if there is a case of a Knowing-Doing-Gap)
Of course, YMMY, so read it for yourself

01/04/2017

Goodbye IBM, hello Salesforce!

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The Ministry of Manpower in Singapore is running a campaign "A new career at 55". Intrigued by it, I decided to give it a shot.

I will be joining Salesforce in Singapore as Cloud Solution Architect this Monday.

My 11 year tenure in IBM thus came to its end. With the new co-location policy sweeping though IBM, I realised, that staying in Singapore will not get me any closer to Notes than the December delivery of Verse on premises. Moving with my offspring in JC wasn't an option.

Working with the "Yellow bubble" always was fun and I intend to continue to participate there. Over the years the community propelled me to one of the top XPages experts on Stackoverflow, adopted my word creation XAgents and always made me feel welcome.

I had the opportunity to contribute code back to the community via OpenNTF on github. Check them out:

  • DominoDAV
    A webDAV implementation for Domino attachments. It allows you to fully round-trip edit office documents in a browser. It is extensible, so you could make views look like spreadsheets etc.
  • Swiftfile Java for Notes
    We had to pick a different name (AFSfNC) to add to the confusion. The project is a Java plugin implementation of Swiftfile, the little tool that would predict what folder you would file a message to. In todays lingo one would call it: Cognitive tag prediction (in Notes Folders and Tags could be used interchangeable)
  • Out of Office
    a Rest API that allows to check the OOO status of a given user
  • DominoRED
    Linking Domino and NodeRED. Very much work in progress

So let the adventure "From sensei to n00b" begin. See you on the other side!

04/02/2014

Download Connect 2014 presentation files

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The show is over and the annual question arises: how do I download all the presentations? To do that, you will need a valid username and password for the Connect 2014 site, no anonymous access here. The 2014 site is build on IBM Portal and IBM Connections. IBM Connections has a ATOM REST API, that opens interesting possibilities. With a few steps you can get hands on all files. I will use CURL to do this.
  1. Create or edit your .netrc file to add your Connect 2014 credentials (in one line)
    machine connections.connect2014.com login [YourNumericID] password [YourNumericPassword] (Note [ and ] are NOT part of the line in the .netrc file)
  2. Download the feed. Checking this morning, I found a little more than 500 files. The Connections API allows for max 500 entries per "page", so 2 calls will be sufficient for now. You can check the number of files in the <snx:rank> element in the resulting XML:
    curl --netrc -G --basic -L 'https://connections.connect2014.com/files/basic/anonymous/api/documents/feed?sK=created&sO=dsc&visibility=public&page=1&ps=500' > page1.xml
    curl --netrc -G --basic -L 'https://connections.connect2014.com/files/basic/anonymous/api/documents/feed?sK=created&sO=dsc&visibility=public&page=2&ps=500' > page2.xml
    (explanation of parameters below)
  3. Transformt the resulting files to a shell script using XSLT (see below) java -cp saxon9he.jar net.sf.saxon.Transform -t -s:page1.xml -xsl:connect2014.xslt -o:page1.sh
  4. Make the scripts executable (unless your OS would execute arbitrary files) chmod +x page1.sh
  5. Run the download ./page1.sh
You are dealing with 2 sets of parameters here:
  • the CURL parameters
    • --netrc: pull the user name and password from the .netrc file
    • -G: perform a GET operation
    • --basic: use basic authentication
    • -L: follow redirects (probably not needed here)
    • (optional) -v: verbose output
  • the Connections Files API parameters
    • sK=created: sort by creation date
    • sO=dsc: sort decending
    • visibility=public: show all public files
    • page=1|2: what page to show. Start depends on page size
    • ps=500: Show 500 files per page (that's the maximum Connections supports
As usual: YMMV

01/02/2013

Connect 2013 in one picture

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Where Knowledge Goes To Die
Update: The tombstone sans the text is from a political blog by Andy Barefoot, who provides a tombstone generator. The page states "create your own poster", which might or might not state a copyright statement for a generated poster. The sentence eMail is where knowledge goes to die gets attributed to Bill French, but might have many parents. "Stop sending, start sharing" is my sentence, but I'm sure someone possibly has said that before (I just didn't come across it).
Now it is anybody's guess if the combination of all these constitutes a) a new asset in its own right, b) (re)use of the stated items is covered by fair use or a license - c) that the necessity to think about that is plain mad.
If your conclusion is: It constitutes an original art work by me, then the Creative Commons License as stated below would be in effect.

06/04/2012

Inside the IBM Support Process

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No software runs flawless (even if the product is named after a fruit), so from time to time you need to interact with support. The entry point for IBM support is the IBM Support Portal or the support call center. Behind that front is quite a bit a process that is designed to be predictable, repeatable, measurable and ensure that customers get the right level of attention from the right level of expertise. Scribbled on a napkin it looks like this:
IBM Support Sequence Diagram
(click on the image to get a bigger picture)
So you are just 2 degrees away from core development. Level 1's responsibility is to ensure that as much evidence as possible gets provided. This is often the most time consuming task and would tie down product experts quite a bit. It is often a point of contempt since you are not talking to a product expert yet (ironics would say: nothing can be called a process if it isn't broken"). The trick here: call in prepared to keep that phase as short as possible. Also be clear what support does: "Technical question support allows you to obtain assistance from IBM for product specific, task-oriented questions regarding the installation and operation of currently supported IBM software. Short duration problems involving but not limited to: "
  • Installation
  • Usage (how-to)
  • Specific usage/installation questions for documented functions
  • Product compatibility and interoperability questions
  • Technical references to publications, such as Redbooks or manuals
  • Assistance with interpretation of publications
  • Providing available configuration samples
  • Planning information for software fixes
  • IBM database searches
and what it doesn't:
  • Performance analysis
  • Writing, troubleshooting or customizing client s code
  • Extensive configuration questions
  • Recovering a database, or data recovery
  • Consulting
The IBM sales representative will happily discuss a service engagement for the above needs. The full IBM support handbook is available online.

16/10/2011

I'm an IBMer

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When you ask someone what they do for a living, you typically get answers like "I am a [insert-profession-here] and work for [insert-company-name-here]". If the profession isn't clearly defined you might just get the company name or the industry (best one "I work in the F&B industry on high quality standard product delivery" for flipping burgers at one of the large chains --- common mis-perception that quality = uniform delivery without variance at work).
When you ask someone working for IBM, more often than not you get the answer "I'm an IBMer"
So what makes IBM so unique to get people to this level of identification (besides "IBMer" being way more catchy than Microsoftler, HPer, Googler, Forder etc)? Having worked most of my professional live independently (giving me the opportunity to peek into countless organisations) and just over 5 years for IBM, I came to the conclusion it is IBM's constitution. Since IBM isn't a country it is called IBM core values:
  1. Dedication to every client's success
  2. Innovation that matters, for our company and for the world
  3. Trust and personal responsibility in all relationships
They are phrased so Kant's Categorical Imperative would truly take pleasure in. Like every great constitution it is under constant threat being drowned in perceived daily necessities, fashions of the day and the hardship of sticking to the facts. So they need to be defended from time to time. IBM is as much a for profit business as nation states strive for hegemony (at least over their territory and subjects). Constitutions and core values form the checks and balances to that strive. So what do our core values mean to me:
  1. Dedication to every client's success
    Dedication requires passion. As the old Zen saying goes: "If you are a sweeper, sweep. Be the best true sweeper that can be". If you don't care what you do, you can't care for the outcome. Success comes in many forms and shapes. If I want to be dedicated to success, I need to be able to grasp it. In the easiest form it could be "Reach the stated criteria", but that wouldn't be dedication, it would be a mere correctly "making plan". Dedication mandates to go deeper, challenge and refine the criteria for true success and question if a stated outcome qualifies as success. For measurable outcomes it can be simple: "Reduce operational cost by x percent" or "Improve system response time by y percent". For broader goals measurements can be tricky: "Make the organisation more attractive for new hires" or "Improve collaboration". For me the elusive goals pose the more rewarding challenges. I like to get things right rather than hitting the correct number.
    A client's success isn't a closed deal (that's the seller's success), but a successful implementation and frictionless adoption is. Making the number doesn't qualify either.
    In practise that means that I won't shy back from challenging the validity of goals (as too optimistic, unrealistic, to cautious or not bold enough) or push back overly enthusiastic sellers, if the mismatch of product to be sold and desired success becomes obvious. This has earned me a repudiation as "no nonsense German" (memento bene: no-nonsense != no-fun). On the other hand I try to "hang the basket higher". Is there more that can be achieved? Can the solution be more flexible, more productive, more cost efficient? Can a game be changed?
  2. Innovation that matters, for our company and for the world
    Innovation is applied invention. Sometime the innovation is a first time application of inventions, sometimes it is a new combination of existing products and technologies. IBM is a treasure trove of inventions, second to none in patent applications and Nobel price winning employees. Keeping in touch with IBM research, our labs and customers lets me connect the dots. Contributing to conferences and presenting topics others didn't think of (like webDAV for Domino data, Sharepoint in XPages, PushReplication for Notes clients) I can offer innovation that can matter. I know the contributions aren't big (I don't have a solution for world hunger or conflict), but they can matter once they are in the open and can truly be seen. Stepping back and looking at a problem from a different angle is near and dear to me (something you learn in Germany's law schools). Ideas need breathing space, so I vent them whenever I can and listen to others venting theirs.
    On the other hand "Does it matter" is a good question to ask when proposing products and projects internally or to customers. What difference will an action make? It is the strongest contraception for blindly following the rules
  3. Trust and personal responsibility in all relationships
    There is a reason why IBM's products don't require online activation: Trust. Unlike other industries IBM doesn't carry the idea that customers are by default notorious infringers. That doesn't mean, that IBM doesn't care for compliance, just ask any company who "enjoyed" a compliance audit. Trust has clear advantages, e.g.: trusting employees allows for flexi-work (work anywhere), reducing office cost. But the value also states responsibility. Responsibility generates and limits trust. If one is responsible, (s)he can be trusted upon. Responsible evaluation of a situation will reveal the limits of trust. Trust works as the antidote for micro-management, while responsibility doesn't "leave a comrade behind". Again responsibility != no-fun. My colleagues can trust me, that I will be there when they need me, but not necessarily when they want me (and I'm not a nanny but a mentor). By default I trust other IBMers that they stand by their words (a trade IBMers share with Rotarians: trust by association). After all we drank the blue cool-aid during the Bluewash (a.k.a IBM corporate orientation training). For customers and partners I'm willing to spend effort to earn their trust within a responsible limit of course (pun fully intended)
I think these maxims of action can work for any organisation. Off I go, defending true values another day.

P.S.: In case you wonder about my use of true/right and correct you read this for enlightenment.

29/09/2011

The 3 P of Performance: Passion, Professionalism and Persistence

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Every corporation celebrates their heroes (and enlightened ones mourn their losses too). I've been made Hero of the day in the quarterly GMU Breakaway Star recognition for the inaugural Q2/2011 (GMU is IBM's TLA for "Growth Market Unit", which means: the world excluding US, Europe and Japan: Dear Stephan
Congratulations on your recent selection as one of the GMU Breakaway Stars in recognition of your outstanding contribution to our Software business in 2Q!
The GMU Breakaway Stars program recognizes high performers who have achieved extraordinary results for the business and have demonstrated their understanding of the client's business, their ability to integrate IBM in front of the clients and their passion to drive progress for clients, for IBM, and for themselves.
  As a GMU Breakaway Star, you have exemplified the quality of IBMers at their best.  I am pleased to see your commitment to excellence and IBM values; and your dedication to create differentiation and higher value for our clients.  This is the quality which will differentiate IBM in the marketplace and position us to achieve our 2015 roadmap.
  As we continue to deliver growth for the business, I hope you will contribute the same level of focus and commitment that you displayed to help position us as the 'Best Partner of Choice' for our clients.
  Thank you once again for your exceptional achievements in 2Q.  Keep up the great work!
"
I got featured on the IBM Intranet (which I can't share) and interviewed. I would title that interview: "The 3 P of Performance: Passion, Professionalism and Persistence
The 3POfPerformance.jpeg
The little flags on the right side together with the words in caps point to IBM's core values: Success, Innovation and Trust. It is always fun and rewarding to tie actions back to the stated core values, they are everywhere in danger to bet let out of sight in the heat of the battle.
Carrot accepted, now back to the stick of quarterly numbers.

30/05/2011

What does an IBM Collaboration & Productivity Advisor do?

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My uncle being 81 and a professor emeritus (thus very busy) asked me what I actually do. While the voice over is missing, the following prezi gives you an overview what I told him.

10/01/2011

Business Partner - IBM vs. Microsoft

QuickImage Category
I had an interesting chat with a business partner, who shall not be named, over the weekend which recalled memories of similar experiences and conversations before. I've been an IBM Business Partner as well as a Microsoft partner in Germany and Singapore, so I have some recall of my own (which I would discount now since that is more than 5 respectively 10 years ago). The gist of the conversation: Both IBM and Microsoft want to earn money with the help of the business partner. However the approach is diametral opposite. My partner summed it up as: "Microsoft would periodically shower you with information: look, this is how you can make money using Microsoft while IBM would periodically request: Can you please submit your sales plan and customers to our system". I know a few conversations can't establish a trend, nevertheless they can rise an eye brow. Of course is it easy to argue looking at the stock price that IBM does it right. So the question remains: what is, once you loose the myopic quarter-end view, the most efficient and mutual satisfactory way to run your partner network?

01/04/2009

Manage your IBM servers - use the IBM Tools Center

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The IBM System x® ToolsCenter is collection server management tools to help manage your IBM System x and BladeServer environment. ToolsCenter makes managing your server environment less complicated, more productive and cost-effective.
You will find a lot of gems there: Server Guide, Bootable Media Creator, Scripting Toolkits and more.

05/02/2008

Reply-To-All Redux

QuickImage Category  
From the "Your-Notes-client-is-different-department".

When replying to an email Notes does some address shuffling for you. As long as you have one sender and one recipient, it is quite logical. The original sender become the recipient, the recipient becomes the sender. Everybody in the cc list stays in the cc list.
Incoming eMail to Send eMail

However that doesn't work anymore when you had more than one recipient in the To field. The general rule (as I once understood it) for when to place in To and when to place in CC is:
- To: This is an actionable item for the receipient
- CC: for information only. (In this days it is more like a "Just in Case Copy)

So what should your email system do, when there is more than one person in the TO list?

a) Presume that your reply to the original sender is actionable for the other recipients too?
b) Presume that your reply to the original sender is for information only for the other recipients?

Notes uses presumption b) while other email systems use presumption a). So you go from:
to

18/10/2007

IBMers at your fingertips

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IBM is very open about people working for IBM. We publish a list of all IBMer who have a blog. You also can lookup any IBMer's email and phone number. There is a community on XING. There are various groups in FaceBook as well as FaceBook's IBM network. We have a page with the Greater IBM connection including a blog. We even extend into Second Life.

Disclaimer

This site is in no way affiliated, endorsed, sanctioned, supported, nor enlightened by Lotus Software nor IBM Corporation. I may be an employee, but the opinions, theories, facts, etc. presented here are my own and are in now way given in any official capacity. In short, these are my words and this is my site, not IBM's - and don't even begin to think otherwise. (Disclaimer shamelessly plugged from Rocky Oliver)
© 2003 - 2017 Stephan H. Wissel - some rights reserved as listed here: Creative Commons License
Unless otherwise labeled by its originating author, the content found on this site is made available under the terms of an Attribution/NonCommercial/ShareAlike Creative Commons License, with the exception that no rights are granted -- since they are not mine to grant -- in any logo, graphic design, trademarks or trade names of any type. Code samples and code downloads on this site are, unless otherwise labeled, made available under an Apache 2.0 license. Other license models are available on written request and written confirmation.